There aren’t enough words to express the dismay over the fact that the Labor Party’s central committee will have to decide Sunday whether to ratify an agreement in which party chairman Amir Peretz and Knesset member Itzik Shmuli get ministerial posts in a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid accused Benny Gantz, his former partner in Kahol Lavan, of committing an unprecedented act of deception in joining Netanyahu. His blunt words are even more applicable with regard to the chairman of the Labor Party.
It’s hard to believe that the person who shaved off his bushy mustache on air – willing to sacrifice his trademark in order to counter suspicions that Labor-Gesher would join Likud the day after the election – has chosen to break his promise and disgrace himself and his voters in order to join a government established with one purpose: to spare Netanyahu from facing justice.
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But this is not a decree of blind fate. The members of the central committee now have an opportunity to apply the brakes and clarify to Peretz and Shmuli that their actions do not represent the wishes of people who voted for this party in total confidence that Labor would not join the criminal defendant Netanyahu. Experience shows that the committee doesn’t vote against an incumbent leader, but this time there are valid reasons for doing so, since Peretz has violated a deep commitment to his voters, who now feel their votes have simply been stolen. First by his partner, Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abekasis, and now by Peretz himself, along with the number two in Labor, Shmuli.
MK Merav Michaeli is leading the opposition to joining the coalition. She says that a vast majority of party members refuse to be partners to a corrupt government that provides the accused with veto power over the appointment of judges and the attorney general, a government which already on July 1 will enact a unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank. In an article she wrote in Haaretz, Michaeli reminds party members that Labor is a democratic party which doesn’t belong to Peretz or to any other lawmaker, but to the tens of thousands of its members. She calls on them to oppose this move and prevent a final act of suicide by the Labor Party. It would behoove the party’s central committee members to listen to Michaeli.
Neither the coronavirus nor a national emergency form the basis of the partnership between Kahol Lavan and Netanyahu. Instead of collaborating with a corrupt government, Labor would do better to remain in the opposition, utilizing the time in order to embark on a long journey of stocktaking, learning lessons and taking corrective action. That process should start with the replacement of its chairman, who has brought the party to an electoral nadir and to the loss of all public faith in its path.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.